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I'm a former classroom teacher in MN, PA. and CO (3-12), state dept of ed social studies director, university prof and civic ed researcher. By training (BA,MA and doctorate) I am a historian (modern Europe) and I've been deeply concerned about and interested in the quality of social studies ed in general and expecially history. I began my career in the era of the New Social Studies and delighted in the higher level and critical thinking skills it sought to teach, but dispared at its inability to answer the eternal student question," Why do we gotta study this stuff?" As a field we rarely ponder why we want students to "know" what we teach? What do we expect them to DO with that content? Why should they know that "stuff?" There is an infinite amount of history. Some people specialize in three days of the Jacksonian presidency. We need some basis for making rational choices among content and "its in the book" is simply not good enough.
Enduring themes provide an answer to this challenge. Good themes allow students to study deeply historical events with an eye to applying their learning to address contemporary, meaningful, challenges, eg. after studying changing immigration patterns and domestic responses to them, the labor movement, the womans suffrage movement, and the civic rights movement, how might we apply what we have learned to respond to an important contemporary issue of social justice and/or restricted access to policial power? Suddenly, understanding how historically the principles that undergird this society have been moved forward becomes useful in responding to issues of concern to students.
I'm interested in learning about what others are doing in this area, supporting them, and contributing whatever seems appropriate from a 41 year career in the field.
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